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Myanmar: Momentum for justice as US to label Rohingya crackdown genocide

Responding to reports that the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to announce that Myanmar’s military has committed genocide and crimes against humanity during its violent campaign against the Rohingya minority, Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Interim Regional Director, said: 

“Nearly five years after 740,000 people were driven from their homes at gunpoint in 2017, Rohingya families and survivors have yet to receive justice for the unimaginable horrors inflicted upon them. Momentum for international justice must be accelerated to end the rampant culture of impunity in Myanmar, where no senior figures have ever faced the consequences of their appalling campaign against the Rohingya people.

“Without accountability, Myanmar’s military will continue to believe it has a blank check to murder innocent people, bomb their homes, and destroy their families. Amnesty International supports the call for the investigation and prosecution of senior military officials for crimes under international law in Myanmar, which include crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. 

“The same generals who implemented the authorities’ brazen campaign of bloodshed against the Rohingya seized power in a 2021 coup. In response to a nationwide protest movement, they then turned their weapons on youth protesters in Myanmar’s biggest cities, deploying violent tactics previously used to target ethnic minorities for decades.” 

Background:

The administration of US President Joe Biden is set to formally declare on 21 March that the Myanmar military’s 2017 campaign against the Rohingya amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to make the announcement at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

Myanmar’s military drove out more than 740,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State into Bangladesh in a brutal campaign of extrajudicial killings, arson and sexual assault. An estimated one million Rohingya refugees now live in Bangladesh, and many of their homes back in Rakhine State have been wiped from the map. 

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar previously called for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior officials to be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Min Aung Hlaing seized power in a coup in the early hours of 1 Feb. 2021.  

There are multiple international efforts to provide justice to the Rohingya people, including a genocide case brought by The Gambia against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). A separate case is ongoing in Argentina under the concept of universal jurisdiction. 

Amnesty International has called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. 

In 2017, Amnesty International’s research in Rakhine State detailed a vicious system of institutionalized discrimination and segregation that severely restricted the human rights of the minority Rohingya Muslims. This system – amounting to apartheid – threatens and undermines freedom of movement, ability to access adequate food and healthcare, and right to an education.